Saturday, February 11, 2017

'When should I launch my project?'

Alphonse Mucha working on the Slav Epic

Anthony Ross says:

"I'm working on a long-term, multi-faceted project that is very close to me. It has the estimated size to the Marvel Universe of comics and is in illustrated novel format. Right now my brother and I have a seed of this project that has sprouted for over a decade.

"Only recently have I started to practice art academically, feeling the necessity to do so, to share this story with the world in the way I'd like it to be. I don't feel I can halt the creation of the story, but hesitate to finish even the first pages when knowing how much I can improve and how good the project could be (when I am better). 

"Perfectionism. This is a lifetime of work, but I would like to ask if you look back on personal projects, like Dinotopia, and feel you published them too early, before you had enough skill, or waited too long believing you weren't ready to make something?"


Anthony, you raise a question shared by anyone who conceives of a big idea: 'Am I ready to announce this thing to the world, or should I develop it longer and improve it?'

On the one hand you might want to resist announcing. While an idea is held back from the world and allowed to grow in your head, all changes are possible. As your artistic skills and experience grow, your conception and your expression can develop as well. Announcing it risks that someone else might run away with the idea and go to the public with it first.

If you feel a need to keep your development unadulterated by exposure, you might want to set a time limit on that period. Keep in mind that an idea is always perfect before it is expressed. The very act of committing it to a particular form diminishes it, regardless of your level of ability. Don't worry about that. That's the nature of art.

Beginning to share your idea has advantages. You can test your expression with real audiences and see whether it holds up. People appreciate being invited into your creative vortex. You can plant your flag on in the sand and claim the territory for your grand idea. Maybe there's a piece of what you've got that you can put out there.

Putting it to the public test can help you sort priorities. Maybe your idea is a dud. How will you know unless you try it out with real people? 

Remember that life is not a rehearsal. This is it! Your life clock is ticking. At some point you've got to plant your seed and let it grow.

The Marvel Universe didn't start out with a grand plan delivered by polished talent. (Neither did Dinotopia.) Brahms waited a long time to write his first symphony because everyone expected it would be as good as Beethoven's Ninth. But once he put the first symphony out there, the next three came more easily.
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now."
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

9 comments:

Anthony Ross said...

Hey James,
Thank you for the bonus response!
Funny enough, I just put up the Goethe quote on my studio wall a few minutes ago.
Reading and enjoying my way through Dinotopia at the moment too.
Your book was first published the year I was born. Thanks for the gift.

caddisman said...

Excellent post, James. I especially agree with your statement, "Keep in mind that an idea is always perfect before it is expressed".
I'll add some long ago advice from one of my art professors who stated that talking about an ideas to excess diminishes a kind of "creative tension" needed to execute, and stay focused.

Bill

Steve said...

Agreed, excellent post.

I've had a copy of the ending quotation near my desk since the early 1980's, when it appeared in the publication of the Rochester Zen Center. Apparently only the final bit, beginning "Whatever you can dream..." is a loose translation from Goethe. According to the Goethe Society of North America, the bulk of the quotation is from W. H. Murray in his book The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951. There the text apparently goes:

'But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money--booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!'


The quote commonly attributed to Goethe is:
Concerning all acts of initiative and creation there is one elementary truth — that the moment one definitely commits oneself then divine providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred and which no man could have dreamed would have come their way.

Mark Martel said...

Great question. I'll add that your creative vision will change as you age. At some point this grand concept may grow stale and you'll want to tackle something else. Or someone will publish a similar concept. Get it out there as best you can soon.

Also, the beauty and danger of publishing today is the ease of republishing. Some will publish and revise one project all their life.

Look up writing advice too on the value of cranking out a first draft. Turn off your mental filters and critics and pour it all out. Then go do something else while your subconscious stirs the pot. Come back with a fresh critical eye and revise, revise, revise.

Great ideas tend to occur to many people when the time is right. Darwin himself, after developing his theory for 20 years, was scooped when Wallace wrote him with a near-identical theory.

And I'm writing all this a reminder to myself to get going!

Bob said...

James, this is wonderful advice applicable to projects large and small, even for our community of Dinotopia fans as we ponder our ideas for fan "art" and fanfics.

JMRinguet said...

I don't think anyone should ever start with something too big and I can't see how one person can create something as big as the 'Marvel Universe' anyway. Start small is the best advice, and start now. You can make it grow at the same time that you are getting better.

Matthieu Kiriyama said...

It's probably not as good as you think. Just make something and start the ball rolling!

humza khan said...

Hey, I get how you feel and commend your passion for wanted to share your massive amazing idea with the world!
A few things, first I would say focus on what you're here to give to world. Self interest and survival come built in as a reflex for human beings. Yes you have to survive, but your own self interest should be your last most distant priority in the back of your mind.
If you don't do this, you wind up attracting people into your world whose top priority is their own survival and that can make for some unpleasant life experiences (office politics can often start this way).

Billionaires like Richard Branson and Elon Musk know this, and it shows in their bank accounts. As does J.K. Rowling and Oprah, whose first priority was to get her work and passion out there first versues someone whose first priority is how do I make money and then also wants to be creative too.

Second I would say is that the Marvel and DC universe completely came together by sharing ideas. If you look at the most popular characters and the greatest stories, they ALL involve generations of artists building on the work of the past. Look at Spiderman or the X-Men. Those characters have defined and shaped and molded by generations of artists after Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Did you know Wolverine was originally suppose to be some mutated wolverine cub at one point? His first appearance was in the Hulk and at that point they though the claws might be coming out his gloves. The Hulk was only green by chance but somehow it resonated. Even Spiderman was a random gamble on a comic book that was on it's way out. They were literally told no one likes spiders and no one wants to see a teen super hero.

So keep all this mind when you're coming up with your idea and remember to focus on what you are here to give to the world. That should be your first priority, what you get should your last most distant priority as a faint glimmer in the back of your mind.

Good luck! P.S.- The Marvel Universe has had a lot of retcons: http://comicbook.com/2014/12/31/5-comic-book-retcons-worth-celebrating/

Anthony Ross said...

Thank you everyone. Good to hear the varied feedback and thoughts on this.